Safety warnings for sugary drinks

Published in Diabetes Care, For the Health of It Author: Kimberly M. Dodds-Thompson, Registered Dietitian, Certified Diabetes Educator

Would a health warning label on a bottle of pop make you less inclined to buy it?

A recent study conducted an online shopping experiment for parents. They were divided groups to “buy” drinks for their kids with:

  • no warning labels on the beverages;
  • labels only listing calories; or
  • various warning labels about the potential health effects of sugary beverage intake including weight gain, obesity, type 2 diabetes and tooth decay.

Sixty percent in the groups with no labels chose a sugary drink. Out of the calorie labels group, 53 percent chose sugary drinks. Only 40 percent of the parents who saw the health warning labels chose a sugary drink.

The study was recently published in the journal Pediatrics. It concluded that health warning labels on sugar-sweetened beverages improved parents’ understanding of health harms associated with overconsumption of such beverages and may reduce parents’ purchase of sugar-sweetened beverages for their children.

Some sugary beverages have seven teaspoons of sugar in a 6.5-ounce serving — nearly twice the amount of recommended sugar daily intake for children. Pop is not the only culprit. Fruit drinks, flavored waters and sports drinks also may contain a lot of sugar.

I always tell patients to “eat their fruit rather than drink it.” Even 100 percent fruit juice contains a lot of sugar (about the same as pop). To me it isn’t worth the calories or the carbohydrates. And when you eat fruit, you get the benefit of the fiber and the feeling of fullness.

Water is always the best choice. You can make water a little more exciting by adding some sliced fruit such as lemons, limes, oranges or strawberries. You can even add cucumbers for a mild refreshing flavor.